The Marlboro Record

Aron Grant Looks for Harmony in Historic Architecture

Last summer, senior Mia Bertelli and art history professor Felicity Ratté travelled to Italy and Turkey to research 15th-century architecture in the historic cities of Mantua and Edirne. An extension of their tutorial last spring, called Harmony in Architecture, their research trip and collaboration allowed them to explore the spatial configuration of each city from two different perspectives.

“The comparison between Mantua and Edirne has proved to be quite as rich and fruitful as I had hoped,” said Mia, whose Plan of Concentration explores harmony through architecture, music, and craft theory. “While this trip has helped to answer many of my questions, it has also sparked many others and illuminated the inherent ‘polyphony’ of this type of inquiry.”

Mia and Felicity’s research trip was supported by the Jerome I. Aron Fund, an endowment created in 2004 in memory of Marlboro’s dear friend and trustee, Jerry Aron. The fund was established to promote collaboration between students and faculty, and Mia’s work with her Plan sponsor is an excellent example of this. 

“The collaborative aspect of our project was based upon the fact that we each assessed the same two sites with a particular focus on comparative architectural analysis,” said Felicity. “Our research diverged in its focus and methodology, with me looking at the broader historical context of early 15th-century urban development and Mia looking more closely at the contemporary visual experience of specific buildings in each city.”

While Felicity spent her days walking and mapping the streets as they had originally unfolded in the 15th century, Mia primarily visited the churches of Sant’Andrea and San Sebastiano in Mantua and the Eski Camii and Üç Şerefeli Camii in Edirne. They also took side trips to visit other historic cities, Rome, Florence, Venice, Ferrara, Ravenna, Modena, and Istanbul, to help provide context and comparative material for their studies.

“In all of these spaces I sought to identify harmony from two main perspectives,” said Mia. “One was an assessment of the structural relationships and formal elements of each building, according to how they embody the definitions of harmony found in each tradition’s relevant literature. The second was a broader consideration of the qualities of each space and what these can suggest about the meaning of harmony both in built space and in general, across disciplines.”